When Jeffrey Allbritten took the helm at Edison State College last year, he challenged his leadership team to question why we do things the way we do and to foster a spirit of renewal which will lead Edison into the next 50 years. Part of that renewal has included reviewing every aspect of the college to help ensure that we are working at a high level of efficiency that ultimately best serves our students.
We want to help our students be successful and to achieve their professional goals, and that assistance includes the use of scholarships.
One of the programs designed to help students is Project HOPE (Help One Person Excel). This program is targeted at students who meet certain eligibility criteria to graduate from Edison with either an associate in arts or associate in science degree. The scholarship supplements financial aid these students receive to cover full tuition, fees and books for up to 30 credit hours per academic year. Project HOPE scholars also receive a $1,000 stipend each fall and spring semester as long as they fulfill the scholarship requirements.
In reviewing the data for students who have been awarded the Project HOPE scholarships, we found that the success rate is not meeting our expectations.
As we partner with Complete College America — a national initiative to increase college graduation rates — it is imperative for every aspect of the college to seek more and better ways to ensure students graduate. We simply must do more than “bring students in the door.” We must create systems that help them achieve their goal of college completion. That is the focus of a new scholarship program at Edison.
In the fall, Edison State College will begin a new Presidential Scholars Program for first-time college students. It is aimed at making college accessible and affordable for high-achieving, first-generation students and will replace Project HOPE. The requirements and expectations of students who participate in the Presidential Scholars Program are higher. This new program requires that scholars enter Edison ready for college-level work, maintain a minimum 3.0 grade-point average, participate in service learning and complete an internship prior to graduation.
Requiring a service-learning component is based on a review of best practices relative to what college students need to enhance their academic experience. And adding the internship component allows Presidential Scholars to have “real workplace experience” that will strengthen their resumes when either job-seeking or applying for baccalaureate or graduate programs.
Our local community has identified the need for a qualified workforce. Workforce Now, a regional research initiative, just released a report that has begun the process of identifying position and skill gaps in Southwest Florida. It is collaboration among Florida Gulf Coast University, Edison State College and Hodges University, and is the result of last fall’s Education Summit, which was produced by the News-Press Media Group.
By opening lines of communication among area businesses and higher education institutions, Workforce Now helps colleges and universities offer degrees and programs that can fulfill area employment needs. We want our students to receive an excellent education and have the tools to be prepared for the next step in their professional lives.